Student Critic Ross Gallacher reviews My Pure Land (Sarmad Masud, UK, 2017)
“This is my land!” proclaims the young, gun-wielding Nazo (Suhaee Abro) as she protects her land from her uncle and his men in this thrilling and insightful film.
Sarmad Masud’s directional debut, My Pure Land, tells the remarkable real-life story of a Pakistani mother and her two daughters who are forced to defend their right as the lawful owners of their home. As the women fight, the film alternates between different timelines and we watch the events that have led to this battle unfold.
The shifts between the narratives become more frequent as the film goes on – resulting in problematic pacing. Tension and suspense is often brought to a sudden halt, particularly in the final act, but outside of the editing issues there are many benefits to the fragmented structure. In the beginning of the film, the young sisters are portrayed as brave and forceful but the flashbacks reveal how vulnerable they were and how far they have come. Masud’s character development is important as we see these girls become women and we begin to invest in and feel protective over these girls despite their indomitability.
The film also seeks to raise issues about gender and Pakistani law and before the film begins we are alerted to the high number of property disputes in Pakistan and the number of women involved. Interestingly, the girls feel like they need to call themselves men to be successful before their father lovingly corrects them. These issues are underplayed initially but as the story unfolds, particularly regarding the conflicting brothers, Masud unequivocally addresses these subjects. An insightful and rewarding film, My Pure Land is one of the highlights of EIFF!
Ross Gallacher is 21 and has just finished a degree in English Literature at the University of Strathclyde. He is about to start a Masters in Film and Television Studies at Glasgow University.